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Becoming A Naturalist Whilst The Littles Are Watching

We all have it: that innate sense of wonder we feel when encountering the scent of fresh rain, when hearing the roar of water over the falls, when spotting the bright red head of a migrating tanager in the woods. We pause, we watch, we listen. And there it is- the naturalist alive in each and every one of us.

At times we forget. We are busy, we are stressed, we are tired, and the cycle continues. But for those of us who have answered the inspiring call to nature education with young children, we have heard the call of that naturalist's voice from deep inside. And we want that natue-centered person to come out and become us!

What is a naturalist if not a quiet observer of the beautiful world around us? Your naturalistic instincts drive you to slow down, listen, wait. Here are a few additional tips to consider in answering the call of teh naturalist inside you:

Five Habits of a Naturalist:

1. Be still. In order to be present with nature we must not be intrusive. Slow down and use all of your senses to see, smell, hear, and feel the environment. After you trudge into the wood with four toddlers in tow, it can take a few moments before the forest returns to what it was doing before you arrived. Show the children how to slow, quiet, and wait for the nature world to reveal itself.

2. Visit and re-visit your favorite observation spots. When you return to a favorite location again and again, you are able to experience the changes throughout the day and year. Birdsong will arrive and then disappear. The color of the leaves will change, and their behavior might be different depending on the coming weather. The ground cover will return this spring, and your spot may not be recognizable when it does!

3. Make connections and comparisons. How does the river look on a sunny day compared to a cloudy day? What birds keep you company and which ones skedaddle as soon as you arrive? How does the deer in the meadow remind you of the one you read about this morning? Making connections and comparisons helps you and your charges understand your unique position in the world relative to the rest of nature.

4. Keep a journal. Record the details you see and try your hand at sketching. If you find specimens on the ground, tape them into the pages of your journal. Record the date, time, season, and weather. Jot down the things the children say and do while playing in nature, you'll be glad you did.

5. Wonder. Questions why the chipmunk is making that noise. Be curious about the species of trees in your wood. Ask out loud what kind of weather is coming based on the clouds in the sky. Record your wonderings in your journal, and then become a researcher when you get back inside. Learn to ID trees, flowers, weather patterns, and all that you encounter while out in the beautiful world.

See you out there! LL


When not working with children and their caregivers, "Lady" Lisa and her family enjoy exploring the woods, lakes, and beaches that surround their northern Michigan home. She holds a masters degree in early childhood studies, a graduate certificate in teaching adults in the early childhood field, and accreditation in wilderness safety and the forest school ethos.


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